Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder

Learn about the signs, symptoms and treatments of dissociative identity disorder and what it's like living with DID.

What is Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Most of us have heard of the movie Sybil or Eve, movies (based upon books) about those with dissociative identity disorder (the condition that used to be known as multiple personality disorder). DID is a psychiatric disorder which is characterized by "the presence of two or more distinct identity or personality states...that recurrently take control of the person's behavior." There is also an "inability to recall important personality information". The condition is generally the result of early childhood trauma that is so severe that the child developed a "coping strategy" that involved psychologically dissociating - that is, in their minds, "not being there" and having the abuse dealt with by another part of their psychological selves. These different parts of the person eventually become distinct personalities. Usually the main day-to-day personality is not even aware of the existence of the other personalities. These other personalities often "come out" during a time the main personality is "blacked out." Thus the person does things under the control of the other personalities, (that are called "alters") that the person is not aware of, and will often deny.

Being a Partner of Someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder

In my 35 years of clinical practice, I have treated several patients with DID, but my first patient with the disorder is the one I remember the most. She was bright, capable, married, ran a successful business, and was quite reserved in her demeanor. During periods she did not remember, she would curse, have angry outbursts, mess up the house, and behave in ways she later denied , and called her husband a "liar" for imagining that she had been responsible for this behavior.

While it is difficult for the patient suffering with Dissociative Identity Disorder, it often even more problematic for the person living with the DID patient. Imagine what it must be like to see the person you live with behaving in a way that is totally foreign to their usual personality, and then denying that it ever happened.

On the website, there are several videos which describe the effect of living with someone with DID. One of the most memorable is that of the ex-wife of football great, Herschel Walker, someone who has admitted the presence of his DID.

Watch HealthyPlace TV Show on Experiencing Dissociative Identity Disorder

On the HealthyPlace TV show, we will talk with someone with DID and talk in more detail about the origin, symptoms and treatments for dissociative identity disorder. We will also focus on what it is like for family members to live with someone who has DID. I believe it will be a fascinating show. (Read show blog post on Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder.)

Join us this Tuesday, September 1. You can watch the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show live (5:30p PT, 7:30 CT, 8:30 ET) and on-demand on our website.

Dr. Harry Croft is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Dr. Croft is also the co-host of the HealthyPlace TV Show.

next: Stress of Being an Alzheimer's Caregiver
~ other mental health articles by Dr. Croft

APA Reference
(2009, August 2). Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Last Updated: June 5, 2017

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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